Senate candidate won’t back filibustersSenate filibusters have encouraged minority rule and given the chamber an inflated sense of its importance, says a North Dakota Democratic U.S. Senate candidate who promised Friday to oppose almost any filibuster if he is elected.
By: By Dale Wetzel, The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — Senate filibusters have encouraged minority rule and given the chamber an inflated sense of its importance, says a North Dakota Democratic U.S. Senate candidate who promised Friday to oppose almost any filibuster if he is elected.
Tracy Potter, a state senator from Bismarck, said his promise would apply whether Republicans or Democrats control the Senate during his term. Democrats now hold a majority, but Republicans believe they have an outside chance at winning control in the November election.
If a proposed action is filibustered in the Senate, it means the proposal needs support from at least 60 of the 100 senators, instead of a simple majority. The filibuster has been most prominently used recently to block health-care legislation.
Potter told a news conference that he would push to eliminate the Senate’s filibuster rules. Failing that, he said he would support filibusters only for lifetime appointments to federal judgeships and the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Something as trivial as an appointment to a five-year term on the National Labor Relations Board cannot be failing” because supporters can’t muster the 60 Senate votes needed to break a filibuster, Potter said.
He was referring to the nomination of union lawyer Craig Becker to the NLRB. In a vote earlier this month, only 52 senators voted to end the filibuster.
The Becker vote was “simply obstructionism, and it’s minority rule,” Potter said. “The minority cannot rule. It’s not right. It’s not the American way.”
Potter is the only declared Democratic candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Byron Dorgan, who decided not to run for re-election. Gov. John Hoeven and Paul Sorum, a Fargo architect, are candidates for the GOP endorsement to run for Dorgan’s seat.
Don Larson, Hoeven’s campaign manager, said the filibuster has been useful in blocking a massive government overhaul of health care.
“There are instances where the filibuster slows the process down in order for the public to give more input to their elected officials,” Larson said. “You have to look at (the use of a filibuster) on a case-by-case basis ... When it comes to substantive legislation, you can’t say never.”
Potter said the filibuster has made senators “too important” compared to the House and the federal executive and judicial branches.
“I have sometimes chastised my colleagues (in the North Dakota Senate) that they are overreaching,” Potter said. “We have to have limitations on our power, and recognize our appropriate roles in the system.”